Tokyo Marathon 2011

Last year when I registered for Tokyo Marathon in August 2010, I was under the impression that there was only a 10% slim chance of getting balloted for a place. Little did I know that in fact, foreign participants 'usually' would be given priority over the locals. This makes more sense for Japan's economy.

Anyway, when I received the email confirming a place, I was ecstatic! But I was left with a dilemma. That was because I also signed up for Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon which was a week before Tokyo Marathon. How to run 2 marathons in the space of 1 week?

Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I could say that it was not too crazy an idea. Because I have done it! I have managed to run 2 marathons back to back. And according to a friend whom I met during my flight to (and fro) Tokyo - K.K.Yum, I should qualify for a number at

We (the whole Yeng family) touched down in Haneda Airport on a cool night of 24 Feb 2011. We checked in to our hotel which was just right smack at the starting point of the Marathon. Shinjuku Washington Hotel. It was very central and convenient. However, if you are claustrophobic and a little more conscious of comfort, there are other more luxurious hotels in the area. Suffice to say that the room was small and stuffy. But it was OK for us. The main thing for me was the close proximity to the starting point.

Anyway, the following morning, we made our way to Tokyo Big Sight to pick up my race pack.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the organizers' efficiency. (Then of course, this is Japan after all!) From the presentation of my Bib claim certificate at the entrance -- to the collection of various items for the race -- down to the exit to the EXPO. All this in less than 5 minutes! Everything was so orderly and professional. Not to mention the ever helpful and friendly staffs. The EXPO itself was also a huge event. Everything that you can think about relating to marathon running, you can literally find it there. Seriously! Needless to say, I spent a few hours there going from stall to stall. Until my teenage son was bored to tears. Later in the afternoon, I had to make up with the kids by bringing them to the Ghibli Museum.

I won't bore you with any details pertaining to our travel in Tokyo. Any tour agency can do that for you. I'll be talking solely on the run.

In the morning of the run, the weather was pristine. Clear blue sky and sunny day! We were expecting the worse case scenario. i.e. Rain. But it was a pleasant surprise. However, temperature was still cold with only 7 degrees Celsius as we parked ourselves at the starting boxes designated from A-H. I was in the middle at box D.

For a crowd of 35000 strong, the organizers, again, did an excellent job of keeping it orderly and contained. The spectators were not allowed into the starting area. The runners were whisked into our respective boxes and awaited the start in the cold for about 25 minutes. The gate closed at 8:45am and we were scheduled to start at 9:10am. When the time finally came, the gun off was followed by a release of millions of white leafy paper mimicking the famous Japanese Sakura in Spring. It was a nice touch. The crowd roared. The Japanese drums beat. It set pace as we crossed the starting line, heading off our 42.195km course with a rapid infusion of adrenaline.

It was a good 4 minutes later before I reached the starting line. The spectator crowds were lined along both the roadsides, cheering Gambateh! Gambateh! (That's the only word that I could understand). But you can see that they were genuinely supportive. There were even bands playing, along with dances, ranging from the traditional to the funky ones. Runners also would not let up the chance to entertain the crowd with all kinds of costumes. I saw many interesing ones like spiderman, superman, men cross dressing etc. KK even saw one dressing up as Jesus Christ equipped with the cross on his back and crown of thorns! I was having trouble with my T-shirt which I thought was a bit over dressed, imagine carrying these excess weight!

Of course there were a lot of serious runners who were very focused and fast on the pace. Since I ran HK a week ago. I wasn't sure how this race could turn out because I have not run at all during the week leading to Tokyo Marathon. So, though the spirit was willing, I still had to be very careful with my physical condition because anything could happen. And something did happen, unfortunately.

I was happily running at 4:15-4:20min/km pace in the first 10km when I suddenly developed a sharp pain in my left knee joint. This was totally out of the blue because the right knee was always the one giving me problem. I wasn't quite sure what it was but I was getting very worried. Should I slow down? Should I stop? I tried stretching and flexing the knee joint but it didn't help much. But I persevere anyway. I have waited and trained for this run for months...I wasn't about to let some knee pain stop me!

So I ran on. And surprisingly, it got better after 2 km. However, the pain recurred every few km. Each time the pain was getting worse and more frequent. I tried changing my running gait by bearing less weight on it. Didn't help much either. So, it was down to mind trick.....

It's amazing what we can train our mind to think. I focused on other things, anything that would steer me away from the thought of the pain. As long as I was not thinking of my problem, the pain did not become too much of a threat. But once I started thinking, "Could I really make it?" "How do I maintain this pace?" The pain came back with a vengeance.

So, I trot on with this relationship not knowing who will have the last laugh. But I know that I was slowing down. The pain seemed to be winning. But what the heck, it's do or die time. This had to mean something....I thought to myself. Make this run mean something.


ナンバー(Bib number):25877

スプリット (ネットタイム)
Split (Net Time)
5km 00:26:12 (0:22:43) 0:22:43 09:36:12
10km 00:48:13 (0:44:44) 0:22:01 09:58:13
15km 01:11:12 (1:07:43) 0:22:59 10:21:12
20km 01:34:29 (1:31:00) 0:23:17 10:44:29
25km 01:58:08 (1:54:39) 0:23:39 11:08:08
30km 02:22:53 (2:19:24) 0:24:45 11:32:53
35km 02:48:11 (2:44:42) 0:25:18 11:58:11
40km 03:14:00 (3:10:31) 0:25:49 12:24:00
Finish 03:24:56 (3:21:27) 0:10:56 12:34:56

No matter what pain. It will end when I get there. I told myself that over and over again. Though my pace slowed down, I was still clinging on to a minimum of 5min/km.

At last, the finish line was in clear view....I ended it with a sprint towards the finish with about 250m to go. The knee was not acting up then, so I had a window of opportunity. And I went for it. It was the least I could do after putting up with this pain for over 30km!

I didn't feel great nor elated after the race. Just a huge sense of relief. I fought hard but couldn't say if I have won or not. The time I clocked was not what I had hoped for.

I did 3:21. It was a bit faster than HK (3:28) but slower compared to Beijing (3:17 PB). But it was alright. I was glad that I fought a good fight and did not stop when I knew I could have easily given up. For that, though I did not do any PB, I think I still came out stronger.

I did justice to my Tokyo trip. And I was satisfied.


  1. Geng...!!! and saw the two future super fast marathoners too...:) :)


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